Understanding Child Support in Michigan: Arrears and Retroactive Child Support

In my prior post in this blog series, I briefly discussed how parenting time plays a significant role in determining a parent's child support obligation due to the Michigan Child Support Formula Parenting Time Offset. Readers also were clued into the other expenses that are included in the calculation of a child support obligation.

Next, we're going to briefly discuss the limitations on retroactive establishment and modification of child support obligations. Additionally, we'll briefly touch on how the Michigan's child support rules handle arrears (past due child support obligations).

Retroactive Establishment of Child Support Obligation

This subject really only applies to unmarried parents involved in a paternity suit. Married parents are not obligated to pay child support to one-another unless they divorce and are no longer married, except during the pendency of a divorce proceeding where temporary child support can (and probably will) be ordered by the Court. Married persons who are subject to a Separate Maintenance order may also be subject to a child support order, depending on the circumstances.

In a paternity suit, the parents can expect to have a temporary and later final child support obligation retroactive to the date of paternity. For mothers (a rare situation legally), this will be the date of birth. For fathers, this will be the date that paternity was legally established by Court order.

Retroactive Modification of Child Support Obligation

Retroactive modification of an existing child support obligation is not available in Michigan, except in "...very rare circumstances in which constitutional due-process protections require a retroactive modification of child support." Another exception is when one party "knowingly and intentionally" fails to report their income in an accurate manner.

Relief from a child support obligation that has accrued an arrearage during the payor's incarceration in prison was not successful.

A party seeking modification of a child support obligation can seek modification retroactive to the date that notice of a petition for modification of child support was given to the other parent/party.

If both the payor and payee agree that a child support obligation should be modified retroactively, the Court may approve the agreement.

Readers should note that interim or temporary support orders are not subject to the general provisions of MCL 552 (barring retroactive modification of child support orders).

Child Support Arrearages

An arrearage, or being 'in arrears' for a child support obligation simply means that the payor failed to pay the entire obligation due by the date in which the payment was due. The arrearage is the amount past due.

Failure to pay in a timely manner will result in a debt owed by the payor to the payee. The debt must be enforced within 10 years from the date the payment was due. Any payments on the past-due support extend the 10-year window.

A surcharge can been added to past-due child support and cannot be retroactively modified.

Preservation of child support arrearages. Failure to preserve any arrearage accrued from temporary child support orders waives the payee's right to pursue them as a debt under MCL 600.5809 (collection of debts).

Voluntary over-payment does not entitle the payor to a credit against future child support obligations. This lack of credit even extends to over-payments made by mistake!

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Check back soon for more posts in my blog series Understanding Child Support in Michigan.

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